Richard Pierce

Life, Poetry, Writing

Day 104

Perhaps I am too orderly even in my writing life. I’m behind again on sticking the blog printouts into my journal, and it hinders me in handwriting ideas into that journal because I think that everything should be in strict date order. Maybe I shouldn’t give a damn about the date order. Let posterity sort that out when it cannibalises my art in years to come. I do have another notebook, a tiny one, that I scribble into on occasions. That’s where the other side of me kicks in, though, because I’m so disorganised that I forget to carry it around with me. And this morning I’ve come downstairs without putting my wristwatch on.

At least I slept. My acupuncturist asked me on Tuesday if I dreamed vividly. Only sometimes, I said. I did have a vivid dream last night but I’ve forgotten it already. Some vivid dreams stay with me for long enough for me to write them down. Not this one. Some of them do make me believe that I do sleep travel, that those dreams are actually real, and that they just take place in a different world that I only inhabit in my sleep. The problem sometimes is that if I analyse anything too deeply it can feel like total nonsense to me, but that if I use them for my art instead, they carry on feeling and being real, and don’t feel like nonsense at all.

It’s deeply disturbing that we writers try to make a living out of making up stories while politicians who should be making their living only from acting in the interests of this country in real life make up stories (call that lie) to stay in power and succeed and make themselves rich when 99% of their people are suffering. Just as disturbing is the fact that many of those suffering people actually believe the lies these politicians tell, that the institution which is supposed to uphold truth, Parliament, expressly has a regulation which prohibits those who lie being accused of lying. I’ve been here before, talking about this, but this morning this counterintuitive contrast is once again too crass to ignore. Meanwhile Ukraine burns while the West still buys oil from Russia.

At least the sun is shining. It’s temperate outside. It is still. Not even a breeze. That reminds me of Ein Gleiches by Goethe – and again I come across a dreadful translation. It’s the second poem of Wandrers Nachtlied (which should really be translated as Traveller’s Lullaby), and Ein Gleiches as One The Same. If I remember, I’ll try to translate (well, gjendikt) it over the weekend. It’s a fantastic poem, and I probably love it as much as Hälfte des Lebens. I used to know it off by heart. It’s only eight short lines long.

Maybe I should have made more of an effort to stay in academia. It’s far removed from the real world, and would have allowed me eternally to do nothing but play with words.



Because I didn’t dare, Aggie thinks. Because I was afraid they’d discover that secret part of myself I’d somehow managed to keep intact, that they couldn’t touch, and rip it out of me. She doesn’t say as much, can’t say as much, because no-one must ever know about it. The manifestation of it, the never killing part of it, everyone knows that already, but if they even thought or suspected that it was something she had cultivated against all her training and upbringing, they might ask her too many uncomfortable questions. Let them think she’d never loved or been loved because of her immensity, because of what she sees as her ugliness. It doesn’t matter. She recoils at the thought of tearing that battery out of Anna, wonders for a brief second if it was Anna’s hidden heart, discards the idea just as quickly. ‘It slipped my mind,’ she says, instead. ‘It was a long time ago. I was a child.’

‘We all were,’ Anna says. ‘I wonder what happened to the others.’

Aggie shrugs. ‘Do you care?’

‘Sometimes,’ Anna says. ‘Sometimes I wonder what happened to them after I ran away. If they’re still as trapped as I feel.’

‘You might feel trapped,’ Aggie says. ‘But you’re free. You have enough money to travel…’

‘I had to leave Hong Kong because they threatened to kill me. I had to beg, borrow, and steal to get out of there. You know how oppressive it’s become since England had to give it up.’

‘Should never have had it in the first place,’ Zav says, venomously.

‘That’s odd, coming from you.’ Anna turns to face him, looks at him, lets the motion of the car move her closer to him.

‘Why’s that?’ he says, not moving away from her because there’s nowhere for him to move to.

‘Public schoolboy. British Empire, and all that,’ she says.

Aggie feels nothing as she watches.

‘Ah, that old chestnut,’ Zav says, smiles. ‘A mistake right from the beginning. All this conquering of places, and the opium market. Ancient history.’ He looks out of the window briefly. ‘See all of this, out there, that’s what we should have been looking after in the first place. Distracted by these obsessions of grandeur, this ridiculous thought that one country could hold the whole world in its hand. It was never going to end well.’ He looks at her. ‘And now you’re paying the price. Would China and Russia have become obsessed with their empires, with making them bigger and greater and more powerful, if England hadn’t been the expansionist empire it was? Would Germany have fought two world wars if the English hadn’t been at it first, waging war on the whole world? Would there have been a slave trade?’ He lifts his arms, drops them onto his lap again, shakes his head. ‘I don’t think there would have been. I think the world would be at peace if it wasn’t for England’s meddling. Ultimately, England is to blame for China’s oppression, for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, for everything that’s bad in this world.’ He breathes deeply. ‘And Brexit was just another part of that. Setting ourselves apart again, assuming we’re above international law. A perfect partner now for tyrants like Putin.’

‘And yet you’re working for England as a spy,’ Aggie says.

‘Not that incompatible,’ he says, runs his hands through his hair. ‘I can only get at the system from inside it. Sow some uncertainties here and there. Make sure that some things aren’t as successful as others.’

‘You’re trying to break it?’ Anna says.

‘I suppose so.’

‘You’re no different to Valentine at all then,’ Aggie says.

‘Oh, but I am,’ Zav says. ‘I’m not trying to sell this country to the highest bidder. I’m trying to save it from itself for itself.’

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  1. Ren Powell

    15th April 2022 at 09:14

    Binder journals next time to need a new one?
    I love the dream world, as you know. On the other hand, so glad I didn’t try to pursue academia. The policing of ideas – the sniffing out of inappropriate (and entirely subjective) subtexts – the entitled students – the arrogant students, colleagues, “superiors”, etc. I don’t think I could do it. High school is bad enough. I think you’d find less time for words and more constraints? Maybe? I am only now getting better at separating my day job and my writing life. Realising it is a “life” as much as I hate that kind of precious approach 😉

    1. Richard Pierce

      15th April 2022 at 11:11

      I have many many empty journals. I am just very forgetful in my mobility. I guess I was talking about an idea of idealised academia where I was left to my own devices and didn’t have to teach, but just sat in my ivory tower of learning and read and wrote without any thought of the outside world.

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